Traveling gluten free involves a lot of planning in advance. What will you eat on the road, in the sky, or on the rails? What food should you pack and bring with you? Should you send food to your destination? What restaurants in the areas you are visiting are gluten-free friendly? If traveling out of the country, what local food is gluten free? The list just goes on and on. So, here are 10 travel tips for celiac patients.
1. Do Your Homework
This sounds like a given, but just getting a feel for the area you’ll be visiting can help you enjoy your trip a bit more. It’s always helpful to go online and look at the immediate vicinity around where you’ll be staying. Where is the nearest supermarket? What dining options are around? Is there a local celiac group site that gives tips and advice for the area? If a restaurant is your primary interest, check out their menu or give them a call to discuss whether they will be able to accommodate your needs. There are even an increasing number of hotel chains that now that cater to a host of dietary restrictions and food allergic travelers. The more leg work you do before departure, the less stress you’ll have at your destination.
2. Take snacks on your daily wanders
Finding safe food on the ground is not a guarantee. You should bring snacks on flights. In many countries, snacks are bread-based – sandwiches, waffles, pizza and more. If you buy raw almonds or snack-sized cups of peanut butter, and cut up some cucumber or raw peppers to go with it, you’ll save yourself some trouble afterwards. Throwing these in a bag keeps you afloat when hunger strikes.
3. Use apps
If you have a smart phone, investigate apps that help you find gluten free restaurants. If you find one you like, buy it ahead of time so you know how to use it.
4. Pack Accordingly
So what’s in your contingency pack? Typically, it should include a few gluten-free snack items like chips, pretzels, cookies, or snack mix along with a couple meal replacement bars or snack bars. Okay, and maybe a chocolate bar (or two) in there. A just-add-water type noodle snack or dry soup is also great to toss in your carry-on.
5. Bring travel cards
If you are traveling abroad, get dining cards that outline your ¬gluten-¬free needs in the language of the countries you will be visiting. You can print your free cards or get as an app for your iPhone.
6. Be Flexible
Flexibility is the key. You might find yourself in a situation with limited knowledge of or availability of a host of gluten-free options. Don’t panic. Regardless of the situation, you should never have to go hungry while on the road. Sure, you might not always be able to have exactly what you want, but there will be something.
7. Grocery stores are your friend
Unless you are traveling to very exotic locations where stores don’t exist, chances are you’ll be able to find a grocery store wherever you go. Think easy-to-eat foods you can carry like pre-washed veggies, avocados, whole fruit, jars of applesauce, almond butter, tuna or lunch meat, and many stores even carry gluten-free crackers, breads and other snack items.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask
Even if you don’t see any ¬gluten-¬free items on a menu, ask. You might be surprised to find that in some foreign countries having ¬gluten-¬free staples, including bread, on hand is not unheard ¬of.
9. Condiments might be your enemy
Most celiacs know that soy sauce has wheat flour in it, which makes travel to countries that use it much more difficult. But other table condiments are problematic as well. In some countries, some brands of mayonnaise contain wheat flour. In Portugal, yellow mustard includes wheat. Pre-made salad dressings, BBQ sauces and gravies are often off limits. When you get to a new country, you should head to the grocery store to check out the labels for the most common table condiments.
10. Bring healthy snacks
Pack non-perishable, easy-to-carry, nutritious items, such as nuts, protein bars, small bags of dried fruit or popcorn, or crackers for those times when there really is nothing else to eat.
It’s a great big gluten-free world out there so, get out there and enjoy it. Oh, and there will be hiccups along the way, but when they happen, look at them as learning experiences and not roadblocks. They happen to all of us, gluten-free or not.